AR system brings holographic board games to the table
The Dejarik holochess game we see Chewbacca and R2-D2 playing in the original Star Wars is one step closer to reality – or augmented reality, anyway. Tilt Five is a new gaming system designed to bring an AR element to tabletop board games and RPGs.
The Tilt Five system, which runs off Windows or Android devices, like phones, tablets and laptops, is made up of a few main pieces – a game board, AR glasses and a wand controller. The idea is that when looking at the board through the glasses, players will see the game animated as 3D holograms on the table in front of them. The wand can be used to interact with the games.
The game board is a retroreflective surface measuring 31.5 x 31.5 in (80 x 80 cm), which can also be extended down one side to 42 in long (106.7 cm). It’s made to be resistant to fingerprints and liquids, so there’s no real worry if you spill anything on it.
To see the game on the board, each player needs a pair of electronic glasses. These have a wide 110° field of view to get the whole board, as well as other players and the rest of the real world around them, in view. Two cameras are embedded into each pair of glasses – one tracks the movements of the player’s head, while the other keeps tabs on cards, tokens, figurines and hands as the game plays out.
Since everyone has their own unique point of view, players can privately plan their next move, or look at a hand of cards, without anybody else seeing. Unlike VR, which can suffer from focus issues or the dreaded “screen door effect,” the company says the Tilt Five system will be clearly in focus up close or from a few meters away, and will have latency of less than 6 ms.
These glasses are lightweight – only 80 g (2.8 oz) – so they shouldn’t get too heavy during long sessions. Sound comes through a pair of built-in stereo speakers, and there’s also a microphone to let you chat to players online.
The wand controller connects via Bluetooth, and lets players point and poke at things on the game board. A pile of blocks can be pushed over, for example, or a dragon figure can be tapped to make it attack with a blast of fire.
It all comes together into what sounds like a pretty comprehensive system. There’s no setup like with physical board games, and interactive guides help groups get started without reading a thick tome of rules. If a session runs long, progress can be saved and reloaded later. And internet connectivity means not everybody needs to be in the same room – other players can join in on their own Tilt Five sets or even just a tablet or laptop. Games can even be streamed online, to platforms like YouTube and Twitch.
Of course, a system like this wouldn’t really work without games to play on it. The Tilt Five system comes with a few games built-in, including single-player and multi-player titles. The team has also partnered with other developers, such as Fantasy Grounds, which has a huge library of licensed virtual RPG campaigns like Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu.
Tilt Five seems like a fascinating system, and has the potential to be one of the better augmented reality games systems out there. With a folding board, it looks far more portable and affordable than systems like Euclideon’s hologram gaming tables, which are designed more for public arcades than the home. Others like GameChanger are basically just big, expensive touchscreens.
There are a few things to potentially be wary of, though. The glasses need to be wired into a computer or phone via USB 3, so we have to wonder how cumbersome that might be when you’ve got four players wired up together. And there’s also always the risk that a product like this will launch strong but never get any real killer apps to play with it.
Unfortunately, the lower pledges only come with one pair of glasses, which won’t go far for most board game nights. There is a higher tier group pack that includes three pairs of glasses and three wands, but at US$879 that’s getting to be a pretty pricey game.
For now, Tilt Five is seeking funding on Kickstarter, with pledges starting at US$299 for the base kit. The campaign has already smashed its goal of $450,000, raising almost twice that much with 28 days still to go. If all goes to plan, it’s due to ship in June 2020.
Check it out in action in the video below.
Source: Tilt Five